Don’t Force It: Timing is Everything

Athletes will often hear their coaches tell them to “not force it.” This is pretty common and when mistakes happen on the field or court is usually because somebody “forced it.” Forcing it is trying to create something out of nothing or win the game in a single play. This may be a quarterback throwing a ball into triple coverage in the back off the end zone or a baseball player missing three straight pitches trying to hit a homerun when a single will do. Trying to do too much with what you have can be a fatal mistake in sports, life, or business.
When formulating a strategy for your business there are several routes you can take including cost-leadership, differentiation, and an integrated approach. Each of those have different drivers of success and business models will be developed to support your strategy, product, and function within your respective industry. But having a solid strategy and business model may not be enough; in business timing may be everything.
Strategic industry and market analysis involves feeling out the external environment for consumer attitudes, preferences, and demands. This is probably the hardest thing to gauge for a firm. It is easy to think a consumer could use something or even want something in the future but is now the right time? Right here is where the firm has to really keep itself from forcing it, because doing so could be a catastrophic mistake.
For example let’s look at the Palm Treo smartphone. First released in 2002 these were way ahead of their time with many features the original iPhone had upon its first release in 2007 and the Blackberry before that. Palm had a first-mover advantage and a relatively solid business model but didn’t survive until smartphones became main-stream. Now it is nearly impossible to find someone who does not have a smartphone. The funny thing about Palm is that they were not lacking in features but just seemed to have mistimed their introduction to market. Upon their release the smartphone was not something consumers were looking for. Blackberry and Apple eventually followed up with similar and improved upon products that left Palm behind when consumer demand grew.
This illustration shows that strategy, product, and business models can be for naught if the timing is not right and we force action before the market is ready for it. It is vital for entrepreneurs everywhere constantly be scanning in order to time the market just right going forward.

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